| Maite Delteil, Arunendu Das, Shakti Barman, Pradip Chattopadhyay and Ranjan Ghoshal in London
The aroma of freshly-brewed coffee thick in the air. A view of the Thames rippling by on the other side of the glass wall. The steady drone of polite conversation occasionally drowned by a boisterous chorus of Rabindrasangeet accompanied by taps on the table, doubling as tabla.
Film Café, on the ground floor of National Film Theatre, in far away London is a rather unusual setting for a Bengali television programme to set the camera rolling. Addachakra, the popular chat show on ETV Bangla, crossed the seven seas, becoming possibly “the first programme of its kind in Bengali” to do so.
Says Sudipto Bhowmik, creative director, Moviewallah Communications, which produces the Sunday noon show: “It was quite risky to take the show abroad. But the Bengali audience deserves the British treat.”
Four episodes have been shot at the premier locale. The guest list for the adda included eminent NRIs, second-generation Bengalis as well as Britishers with an India link. “There is ample curiosity here about what Bengalis settled abroad think of local issues, whether their children read Tagore and can speak accent-free Bengali,” points out former Mohiner Ghoraguli member and adman Ranjan Ghoshal, who anchors the show.
Celebs present in London on other work were also roped in. So, Girish Karnad and Mamata Shankar had coffee and conversation with local lights Moushumi Bhowmik, Ketaki Kushari Dyson and Simon Parkes.
“We were working on such a shoe-string budget that all four episodes had to be shot at one go, without retakes. Half of the café had been booked for a day. So there was a steady stream of visitors and those who sat in our half of the hall were served at our expense,” recounts Ghoshal.
The pressure to can the shots fast, perhaps, added life to the impromptu nature of the show. A local girl, who had come to perform Bharatanatyam, walked in with an overcoat and boots on. She took them off on camera to reveal red sari and jewellery. Painter Shakti Barman produced a sheaf of papers and stated that since he had heard that everyone “performs” in Addachakra, he had copied some Tagore songs. So the episode has Barman and his painter-wife Maite Delteil singing Elem notun deshe, says Ankur Roy Chowdhury, who along with Ghoshal’s Mohiner... mate Pradip Chattopadhyay, helped him host the show.
Biletey Addachakra, as the London episodes have been named, has more than adda on offer. “We will take the audience to Cambridge to meet Amartya Sen, to Baker Street for a rendezvous with Sherlock Holmes and to Globe Theatre for a flavour of Shakespeare,” says Siddhartha Roy Burman, director, Moviewallah.
Two of the London episodes have been beamed and enthused by the response, the producers are planning to take the show to neighbouring Bangladesh.